You hear people compare the east coast of Australia to the west coast of the U.S. every now and again. If Melbourne is Australia's San Francisco, then Sydney is its Los Angeles. There's a lot of sun, blond hair, beautiful beaches, and a more fashion-oriented crowd. However, while that may be the easy analogy, I've found Sydney to be a lot more like New York than L.A. The buildings go straight up, the people are suave and sophisticated (rather than laid back with flip flops), and everything is centralized and concentrated rather than spread over a large area. In many ways, it looks like a larger version of San Francisco as well. I was telling my wife on the phone: "Imagine the area around the Embarcadero, North Beach, and parts of Union Square, then combine that with SoHo in Manhattan, then multiply it by ten."
Of course, I don't look at travel as a constant comparison. I'm not trying to pigeon hole Sydney into anything. I'm just always looking for easy ways to explain complex ideas to people—in a nutshell. I've found that simply walking around and letting Sydney unveil itself to me has been incredibly rewarding thus far. It's kind of like drinking, in a way. Drinking a new whisky is kind of like traveling to a new place. Just like I never regret trying a new drink, I rarely go somewhere that I don't enjoy because the travel itself is educational. You learn a little bit more about the world each time you take that journey. Maybe you like some more than the others, but in the end each experience adds a little piece to the great puzzle of life.
That's how Jonathan Walczak feels about whiskey, too; he's a K&L customer in Sydney who writes a really good site about booze called the Whisky Ledger and who also has a huge following on Instagram. We met up over at the Baxter Inn to grab a drink, an underground whisky bar downtown with a large selection of malts and Bourbons. We both drank beer, however, as I think we both knew there were many drinks to follow. While Jon has a passion for whisky, I never get the impression from his posts that he's ranking or judging his experiences. "I don't ever really get mad if I don't like something," he said to me as we discussed our approach to tasting. "I've never regretted buying a bottle. I just see drinking whisky as something fun." I laughed and said:
"I know, my friend. I wouldn't be sitting here with you right now if I thought otherwise."
The last thing in the world I'd ever want to do in my free time is sit down and drink whisky with someone anal who wanted to analyze and critique single malts with me. I think Jonathan felt the same way, which is why we quickly moved on from the Baxter and over to the Lobo Plantation, a thematic rum bar with a great vibe and incredible energy. We watched the fireworks behind the bar while drinking cocktails, before Jonathan turned to me and said: "I think I know just the place for you." It's always interesting to be told something like that because you wonder if the person saying that does actually know something about your tastes. Sure enough, Jon was dead on: Frankie's was exactly what I was looking for. A CBGB's-like underground rock and roll den with pizza by the slice, cold beer on tap, and a fantastic party atmosphere. I was thrilled!
"This place is incredible!" I yelled across the table to Jonathan while taking in the scene. "If I lived in Sydney my wife and I would be here every night!" There were so many different types of people there: young kids, middle-aged guys, punks, squares, nerds, and even a few motorcycle dudes back by the pinball machines. "There's a table of dads as well right behind you," Jon added with a chuckle. We ordered a pizza, got a few more beers (in plastic mugs), and I even bought a long-sleeved T-shirt that said: "Get Fucked at Frankies." Eventually I had to call it a night and head back over to the hotel to get some work done before bed, but I had a fantastic time doing the bar tour with Jonathan. Many thanks to him for reaching out and extending some fine Sydney hospitality my way. I've really enjoyed the city thus far.